What an amazing photo by alumnus Jim Russell ’83! Click on the above image to make it larger. If you would like to set as your desktop background, right-click and ‘save as’ to your computer. Then right click on the file and ‘set as desktop background.’
Approached at dusk, it’s a breathtaking sight—SUNY Oswego’s landmark building bathed in a splendid luster. The cupola is suffused with a stunning glow, taking its place among the stars far above the campus and city.
The Normal Building. Old Main. Sheldon Hall. Whatever name alumni remember it by, Oswego’s signature structure marks a 100-year milestone in 2013 with a return to its former glory.
The college’s historic home has been repaired and renewed in a $10 million exterior renovation. A capital project paid for by New York State and overseen by the State University Construction Fund, the restoration demanded historical authenticity.
Architects and SUNY Oswego staff members pored over vintage photos of the neo-classical building; they drilled holes in bricks to determine details of its construction, and they wielded modern tools like lasers to replicate its unique appearance.
The new copper roof, already achieving a slight patina, is illuminated by lights trained on the cupola, which, for the first time in decades, displays four working clocks. A period-appropriate weather vane tracks Oswego’s legendary gusts from atop Old Main’s tower.
Fourteen crumbling cement front steps have been replaced with granite, and the six Corinthian columns have fresh shells of terracotta. Five original re-paned windows top white oak replicas of the doors that invited the first occupants to classes.
“It is wonderful to have Sheldon Hall, which is so intertwined with the college’s identity, finally and fully restored,” said President Deborah F. Stanley, who spearheaded the restoration of Oswego’s landmark.
“The grand old building now greets our prospective undergraduates and their families as they visit the Admissions Office there. We’re putting our best foot forward. Sheldon Hall is a beautiful manifestation of our proud history while, next door on Washington Boulevard, the new and equally impressive Shineman Center embodies our emphasis on innovation.”
It’s history worth preserving, according to Bob Lloyd ’81 M ’89 of Oswego’s Facilities Design and Construction department, who worked on the historical project from 2010 to its 2013 completion.
Lloyd said workers replacing the “cheek walls”—limestone demi-walls flanking the front steps—discovered wires and conduit meant for light poles. Reviewing historic photos, they replicated vintage lamps that formerly graced the entryway.
The east pergola, which sheltered Normalites all the way to Washington Boulevard and the trolley stop, is updated with white, cedar-topped fiberglass posts.
The exterior was pressure-washed with solvents safe for antique materials, and broken bricks were replaced with exact replicas. Mortar was mixed in small batches to achieve a perfect match. Energy-efficient reproductions replaced 430 windows.
Alumni learned of plans for the building at the college’s semi-centennial celebration and alumni gathering of 1911. Principal Isaac B. Poucher told them, “There is no such thing as stand still in our vocabulary; there is no such thing as inertia of mind.”
Poucher had raised the need for a new building a half-dozen years earlier, according to Tim Nekritz M ’05 of SUNY Oswego’s Public Affairs Office, who detailed the story in his unpublished history of the college’s first 150 years. It is a story of delays and red tape, bringing the work on the $300,000 building right down to the wire for its September 1913 opening.
With $25,000 appropriated by the state legislature, college officials purchased land along the lakeshore, including founder Edward Austin Sheldon’s home at Shady Shore.
Faculty helped draft plans, with the blueprints drawn up by Franklin B. Ware, the state architect: an H-shaped edifice with the west wing for the Normal School classes, the east wing for the Practice School, and a grand auditorium and gymnasium in the center.
The structure was seen as a monument to Poucher. In his article on the principal in History of the First Half Century of Oswego State Normal and Training School, Amos W. Farnham 1875 wrote, “The new Normal School building, which is now ready for equipment on Ontario Heights, is Dr. Poucher’s visible monument, which, like a city set on a hill, cannot be hid.”
The Hon. Patrick W. Cullinan, an Oswego attorney and former state assemblyman, speaking at the laying of the cornerstone, may have foreshadowed the future naming when he said, “The State of New York has assented to a most liberal appropriation for the erection upon this spot a temple of learning worthy of the fame which the Oswego Normal and Training School justly enjoys…a memorial of that great educator who consecrated his life to the cause of education and whose name is inseparably identified with the Oswego School.”
At the college’s Centennial celebration in 1961, Old Main was renamed Sheldon Hall in honor of the Founder.
Less than a decade after opening, during World War I, the Normal Building was home to a Student Army Training Corps, graduating 400 auto mechanics, blacksmiths, pipefitters and telephone linesmen, according to evidence uncovered by Nekritz.
A 1918 pamphlet, To The Boys Overseas and Half the Seas Over, reads: “Every morning at 6:30 the bugle blows ‘Reveille;’ and 200 men form in front of the building for the raising of the flag. At seven o’clock they are in their classrooms.”
The auditorium fire of Jan. 18, 1941, is burned into the memory of many alumni.
Al Johns ’42 and his future wife, Ruth, emerged from the movies that night to empty streets. “We went up there and saw the fire in action. After that the building was pretty well filled with smoke, and the student body was asked to help clean up and wash the woodwork and furniture during that week following,” Johns said.
Barbara Brown McCormack ’44 said, “The night that Sheldon Hall burned, I was home in bed. My father came up the stairs and said, ‘Where is your violin?’ I said, ‘At school.’ He said, ‘It is gone’.” Ruined were a Steinway grand piano, a $1600 Hammond organ, and students’ instruments.
“What was rescued?” asked McCormack. “My violin. Apparently the case was fireproof.” With the help of Dr. Lloyd Sunderland, chair of the music department, she had the violin repaired and at graduation in 1944 she played it, accompanied by her mother, Helen Picken Brown ’18.
Nekritz also writes of a suspected arson in the library in 1950. Amid burned matches and furniture cushions, investigators found an empty frame that had held an oil portrait, valued at $2,400, of former president Ralph W. Swetman.
The restored auditorium remained a focus of college life until the building was temporarily closed.
“Every day we had to go there first,” recalled Betty Reid Gallik ’45, speaking of chapel. “We would have a little ceremony before classes and say a prayer. They checked to make sure we were there.”
Davis Parker ’47, Beta Tau Epsilon dance chair, remembers sharing the stage with President Swetman to announce the first intrafraternity dance. “It was a big deal to get the frats together.”
Parker recalls wartime gas rationing was in effect. “There was a big confab as to whether people would drive. It was decided that if you couldn’t walk there, it was OK to drive to the dance.”
Alumni remember the iconic front steps, depending on their generation, as a place for graduation, class photos, watching homecoming parades, or senior toasts.
Betty Gallik has vivid memories of meeting Eleanor Roosevelt there. As president of the Women’s Athletic Association, she was invited, along with the late Betty Burden ’45 and M. Carol McLaughlin ’45, to greet the First Lady.
Parker recalls having geography with Isabel Kingsbury Hart 1907 and psychology with Donald Snygg in Room 100, known now as the historic classroom, with its tiered rows seating 77. For Betty and Bill Gallik ’47 Snygg’s lecture was their only shared class and the scene of an embarrassing incident. “I was feeling my beads around my neck and didn’t the pearls break!” Betty said, describing falling pearls. “And Dr. Snygg said, ‘I’m sure Betty would appreciate it if someone would help pick them up’.” Bill came to her rescue.
The modern era
The 100,000-square-foot building, placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1980, exceeded the state formula for funding, according to a history compiled by Robert Schell, emeritus associate dean of students. The Office of General Services issued a call for proposals, and the Sarkisian Brothers firm soon began to turn Old Main into a conference center and hotel.
Sheldon’s historic status required interior doorways, windows and moldings be maintained in original style. The auditorium was converted into a ballroom and banquet facility, and the gymnasium became a hotel lobby, with a porte cochere added to the north side for arriving guests.
In the late 1990s, legal issues caused the developers to discontinue the project, and the state turned the building back to the college. It was rededicated to Oswego’s use in September 1998 on the eve of President Deborah F. Stanley’s inauguration.
“It was clear at the outset of this administration that bringing Sheldon Hall back to the college was a priority for members of our campus and alumni community,” President Stanley said. “It had been vacant or in the hands of others since 1983—it seemed our heritage was no longer our own. So, we worked to find means to restore the building’s iconic look and made plans for it to have purposes that fulfilled its original central role in new ways.”
President Stanley said Sheldon Hall is now brimming with life around the clock as a multi-use building. It has classrooms for the School of Education, residential rooms for students, daycare and playground for children, a chamber music series and other special events in the auditorium, and administrative offices for offices of Admissions, International Education, and University Development.
“What makes it so wonderful,” President Stanley said, “is that when you walk through Sheldon Hall today, you absorb the history of our institution in every corridor and doorway, while you also encounter its future around every corner.”
With the renovation complete, tradition and vision are united in the “Temple of Learning” we know as Sheldon Hall.
By definition, an endowment is when a donor makes a gift with the understanding that the college will never spend the original gift, just a portion of the investment earnings. The gift exists in perpetuity — that is, forever — and benefits all generations of SUNY Oswego students and the college’s programs.
Most often, we think of an endowment as the pot of money behind a scholarship. When a generous alumnus gives a $25,000 gift to Oswego (often with a multi-year pledge) with the intention to endow a scholarship, the funds are invested. Once they generate sufficient income (usually after a
year), a potential $1,000 scholarship can be awarded each year to a student meeting the donor’s criteria. The donor can designate whether the scholarship goes to a student with a certain
major, from a specific hometown or military background, or one who has overcome hardship or faces financial need.
An endowment could also create an excellence fund for an academic department, sports team or extracurricular program. The dean or director can use a portion of the accumulated earnings to bring speakers to campus, help students attend conferences and career-exploration field trips, or buy needed equipment.
One donor’s gift has allowed the establishment of a student-run Investment Club, which invests a portion of the endowed fund established by Gordon A. Lenz ’58 so students can learn about financial markets and gain real world investment management experience. The Public Justice Excellence Fund, established by David Cutler ’74, helps students attend an annual scholarly conference and travel to corrections facilities to explore career opportunities in the public justice field. An endowed chair, like the Marcia Belmar Willock ’50 Chair in Finance, provides funds to assist with paying the salary of a professor — usually a scholar of some renown — to teach in a particular area or department. These are but a few examples of the power of philanthropy.
The Oswego College Foundation has nearly 175 endowed funds providing more than $500,000 in scholarship and program support back to Oswego’s students. Annually, more than 200 students benefit from just the direct awards provided by donor-endowed scholarship funds. These are in addition to the scholarship benefits provided by the campus.
The Oswego College Foundation Board of Directors and its Investment Committee are charged with managing these endowment dollars to ensure that desired payouts are available each year and that they grow to match inflation.
Their diligent stewardship means the funds will always fulfill the donors’ wishes, benefiting generations of Oswego students and giving future donors the confidence to invest in Oswego’s mission.
Members of the Class of 1963 celebrated their 50th reunion at the Golden Alumni Society Luncheon in the Sheldon Hall Ballroom. Pictured from left: front row — Ed Church, Rosalie Nicastro DiMeo, Patricia Dubiel, Barbara R. Fleming, Harriet Goldstein Gorran, Clair Wylie, Larry Holzman, Marcia Peterson Brown, Mary Bome Kocher, Anne Wadley Lauko, Anne Friedman Kriz, Joyce Van de Merlen Landau, and Susan Mikolay Pate; middle row — Frederick Winstedt, Bill White, Stan Syversten, Robert Sumner, Richard Stratton, Dolores Jolly Stieper, David Kresel, Robert Skinner, Marilou Huberth Santoro, Joseph Sheperd, Joan Ward Rein, and Mary M. McCarthy; back row — Mary Miceo Corapi, Stephanie Caraoli, Karl Kriz, Francis Hughes, Joseph Lauko, Dave Loascio, Joe Loffredo, Ann Jaeger Hardesty, Karen Kotary O’Bryan, Marilyn Burkell Roth, James Purdy, and George Stieper.
As plans solidified to bring repertory actor Carl Whidden ’75 to campus Dec. 6 to perform his one-actor version of Charles Dickens’s beloved classic, “A Christmas Carol,” 40-year-old memories began to surface and circulate among Oswego alumni and the ARTSwego staff. People remembered a cast of 158, including 130 local children, who had staged an original version of the story in 1973, when Whidden starred in the exacting role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
“Almost daily, we were finding connections with alumni and local residents who were involved in that memorable production,” John Shaffer, director of arts programming for ARTSwego, says. “Legendary Professor Rosemary Nesbitt wrote and directed. It was a presentation of the Children’s Theatre of Oswego and Blackfriars, and it had a lasting impact.”
Whidden’s two-act adaptation calls for him to portray 32 discrete characters, each of which has a unique personality and different accent. “I’ve had to do a lot of homework. It’s challenging to switch characters quickly, get the accents accurate, and always—above all—be faithful to Dickens in my portrayal.
There is one particular character that Whidden finds challenging to portray, but he refuses to name it. If I disclose it, then I’ll be self-conscious when I am in front of an audience,” he explains. Rather, the veteran of stage, television and screen says, “I value the great privilege of working in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ where every character is a delight to know.”
Returning to Oswego, Whidden will refresh his memories of what he calls “Rosemary’s most wonderful adaptation and execution;” he will conduct master classes in the theatre department, and he will connect with long-time friends, like Professor Mark Cole ’73, with whom he has maintained a 42-year friendship.
This national tour, with an Oswego performance brings Whidden full circle and puts him once again in touch with a story he loves. “Imagine my excitement every time I perform. Every character in this story remains vital in our imaginations. The story, and the personalities are timeless, and it makes me feel ageless. After all, I’m 60, and I get to play Tiny Tim.”
Mark your calendars now for Return to Oz IV, Oswego’s reunion for alumni of color, coming Sept. 27 to 29.
Advance registrations are required. Visit alumni.oswego.edu/returntooz for more information and to register. Join us on Facebook at facebook.com/sunyoswegoreturntooz to post photos, give shout-outs or share songs you would like to hear throughout the weekend.
Don’t miss out! “Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Oz” this September.
It’s a favorite of his wife of 60 years, Marilee,
and it stands near a print by Professor Emeritus of Art Tom Seawell, “American Album —Missouri.” The memories come flooding back.
“Tom and I started at Oswego together, around 1962,” Iorizzo recalls. And he vividly remembers his first office—in the barracks of Splinter Village, shared with the late Raymond Wedlake, History department and Music Professors Dr. Anthony Crain, Dr. Marilynn Smiley and the late Dr. James Soluri, who got Iorizzo to play bass for “The Fantastiks” and “Once Upon a Mattress” in Oswego’s summer theatre.
But for the founder and first chair of Oswego’s public justice department, the sweetest memories are those of his students. Iorizzo reminisces about Celia Sgroi ’70, who would follow in his footsteps as chair of public justice; Kathy McHale Mantaro ’65 M ’70, who retired as a successful librarian, and Robert Bruce McBride ’69 M ’72, who made a name for himself in the criminal justice field, as well as a host of other students who inspire his pride.
“It’s so nice to see them develop from green freshman to confident senior. That’s what makes it worthwhile—to see young people develop,” he says.
He and Marilee both served as advisers to Greek groups—Alpha Delta Eta and Alpha Sigma Chi, and former sisters still get in touch.
The Korean War veteran earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. When he joined the Oswego faculty in 1962, history was part of the social sciences department, and Iorizzo taught alongside scholars in economics, sociology, and other disciplines, before history became its own department in 1966. He taught courses in the history of the U. S., New York state and the labor movement. He developed a popular course in immigration history, which led to one on organized crime, and the two topics became the lifelong focus of his scholarly research. One of Iorizzo’s seven books — most focused on immigration, especially that of Italian-Americans — was a life of Al Capone, later published in China and Korea.
Several of his writing credits came during retirement, and his latest, a chapter in the book Immigrant Struggles, Immigrant Gifts, was published earlier this year.
But retirement is not all work and no play for this Renaissance man. An avid golfer, he also enjoys playing his bass in an impromptu jazz band of fellow emeritus faculty members and the New Horizons Band of retirees.
Family is a big focus for the Iorizzos. The walls of their home are adorned with photos of their five children, 12 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren, and the doorjamb into the kitchen bears pencil marks noting their growth.
Besides the books, music and family, Iorizzo’s legacy includes a scholarship in his name founded by a grateful former student. Although he does not choose the recipients, Iorizzo is thrilled to meet them each year, and he is thankful that the fund in his name can help them, just as he was helped as a student. “It’s recognition of their productivity, their excellent performance,” he said. “I hope it is an inspiration to them, and keeps them going.” He also hopes when they graduate and become successful they will be similarly inspired to pass on the help to generations to come, creating their own Oswego legacy.
CHEMISTRY FACULTY MEMBER FEHMI DAMKACI, LEFT, recently was honored with a Center for Environmental Initiatives’ Environmental Excellence Award for his work in creating and growing the GENIUS Olympiad, SUNY Oswego’s environmental competition for high school students around the world.
The center recognized GENIUS Olympiad at its 39th annual Community Salute to the Environment for leadership in environmental education and “outstanding commitment to the environment through implementing effective changes.”
GENIUS — Global Environmental Issues-U.S. — is an international high school science, art, writing and design competition where students present solutions to environmental problems using scientific methods and artistic and design disciplines. More than 450 finalists are expected to attend the third annual GENIUS Olympiad June 16 to 21 at SUNY Oswego.
“What makes the GENIUS Olympiad is that it’s unique in itself both in the United States and internationally,” Damkaci said. “And as a new thing this year, we would like to encourage our cities to implement projects relating to the environment.”
Andrew Crumrine ’14, a marketing major in Oswego’s School of Business, is the first student to participate in Oswego’s newest exchange program — and one of the only business-focused international programs — in Kempten, Germany. Here, he showed his Oswego pride at the famous Castle Neuschwanstein.
ALL OSWEGO ALUMNI receive a discount on professional development programs offered by SUNY Oswego at the Metro Center in downtown Syracuse (pictured) and the Phoenix Center in Oswego County’s Industrial Park just off Route 481. Current program offerings include LEAN Six Sigma Project Management, Grant Management, Event Planning, a Women’s Empowerment quarterly program, notary public workshops and GMAT/GRE cram courses, as well as training courses offered in conjunction with the American Management Association. Learn more and check out the current programs at oswego.edu/professionaldevelopment